Monday, 4 July 2016

I'm a loser baby so why ...

... don't you vote the UK out of complex European trade deals and while you're at why not derail alll of my future plans?

I'm not in the mood for speculative politics today.  Meanwhile, very few concrete facts have come out since my last post.   I thought I'd focus on those feelings of fear and despair that I talked about in my first ever post.  If you find this sort of thing tedious, self-obsessive or whatever please look away.  There's no need to hide your distaste or disgust at all this introspection because this is the internet in 2016 so I can't see you.  Can I entice you back if I tell you there is some politics in all of this?  I'll get round to it in a few paragraphs.  It'll blow your mind be marginally interesting.

I've been thinking a lot about losing in the last few days.  I guess I really do feel like I'm on the losing side.  On an important political matter that really has a negative impact on people's lives this is probably the first time it has ever happened to me.  You know when you see people on TV crying and getting all distraught when their football team loses?   And sane, rational people sit at home on their sofa and wonder what that's all about?  How could you get so het up about something as meaningless and transitory as a football result?   Well,  my reaction to the Brexit referendum is nothing like that at all.  It is a terrible analogy.  Put it from your mind.

I've not even once voted for the winning party in a UK General Election.   Depending on my mood,  I've voted either Green or Liberal or for one of the many radical left parties that burn not all that brightly before disbanding in mutual hatred.  You might be thinking that surely I voted for Blair in 1997.  Well, I didn't.  I was distrustful of Jack Straw's commitment to civil liberties due to his pre-election bluster about  curfews and clampdowns.  That all seems a bit trivial now after the Iraq War and everything that followed.  Anyway, with that sort of voting record you'd think I would be used to being on the losing side by now.  It's more complicated than that, though, because although I never voted for the winning party, the party of government has always had people like me in mind.  I never voted for tax-efficient pension plans, for example, but that's what I got over the years.  I never voted for tax-free employee share ownership but I lived on the hog of that for a while enjoyed the hope that I could become a thousandaire from a meagre share-holding in tech companies that ultimately had no value.  Of course, not everything has been to my personal advantage but anything that hurt me financially was easily offset by the fact that all UK governments have had people like me in mind when they try to appeal to voters with economic policy.  With few exceptions the world of politics has gone my way even though I voted for the exact opposite.

If you look at the last few years it's clear that vulnerable and poor people have been screwed over by politics.  Screwed over in ways unimaginable in the 80s, unthinkable in the 90s, and unpalatable as recently as the early 2000s.  There are families relying on foodbanks, living long-term in temporary accommodation, being inexpertly prodded and poked by private companies that assess their ability to work.  If they feel fear and despair then that is a perfectly rational response to ongoing events and circumstances.  People in that situation probably don't think, "hey, let's improve our hourly rate by upping sticks to Switzerland and, while we're at it, let's take advantage of the extensive network of cycle paths".   At least some of them probably think it would be good to kick the Prime Minister in the nuts and watch him squirm. Some probably think things are so bad that an experiment with change can't possibly make matters worse.  Perhaps some fell into a rather unpleasant, nationalistic kind of politics that is often associated with a sense of economic helplessness.  When you live on a diet of fear and despair the relative benefits of bi-lateral trade deals are probably not foremost in your mind.  For a good chunk of the population the EU referendum was never really going to involve a reasoned debate about the EU.  How come I only see this now?  Mainly because I found the quality of debate so depressing that I completely stopped watching and just waited for the result.

 Anyway, I understand that sense of despair and fear now. It comes with a feeling of helplessness, finding yourself at the mercy of political forces acting against your interests, perhaps even becoming  a pawn in a game of tit-for-tat.  These unexpected emotions I experienced on  24th June are without doubt completely irrational: denting my hourly rate or relocating to a country with an inferior network of cycle paths is annoying but no more than that.  Not every migrant worker is quite as fortunate, however.  In fact, the only outcome I can really envisage is a net increase in fear and despair. After all, leaving the EU is not going to alter the government's philosophical stance on how they treat the poor in the UK. 

Over and out,

Terry

My next post might be about the Swiss situation.  Thrilling stuff, indeed.


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